I recently spent a week and a half in the Tuscany region of central Italy. My visit began with a stay in the oldest part of Florence, the section of town most amenable to tourists on foot and residents on bicycles.
In Peoria, we give developers loans to erase the last remnants of our 19th-century past. In Florence, the infrastructure of the past, both older and more substantial, is securely fixed in the present and creates a resilient, unmistakable sense of place.
It also supports the use of more than a few bicycles.
I’m a bit concerned about the future of this particular machine. If you believe in the broken-window theory of crime, you’d feel a lot better about this bicycle if the owner returned to fix the flat tire and replace the front fender.
Mechanical issues aside, this scene repeats throughout the old city: wall, bicycle, pole, lock (of some sort). But there is always a bit of variation.
Sometimes there’s no pole to wrap a chain around. In this particular case, a skirt guard exists for security of a different sort: keeping one’s dress out of the spokes while on the go. (The skirt guard is the black cover on both sides of the rear wheel.)
The garage door folks must do a booming business in the city, not to provide ingress to garages, but to offer security and the ultimate closed sign for small businesses. The look of many streets changes dramatically as shops open, close and reopen: from vibrant to tomblike to busy once more.
This U-shaped folder may belong to the owner of the business behind the door, seeing as it is locked to the door’s base.
I’ve shown you a lot of bikes against walls. But there are many more in bike corrals on the street. Which means that this is where you’re most likely to see the sadder stories among Florence’s bike population.
Here, a sturdy single speed stands guard over a younger, more sophisticated, but ultimately fallen brother without wheels.
In Florence, as elsewhere, the circle of life for bicycles cannot be abrogated, though evidence suggests most bikes in the city enjoy a long and active midlife. However, when the time comes to replace old wheels, there’s no shortage of shiny new machines to take their place.
Here’s a handsome, fully equipped upright with alloy wheels, a front quick release hub, TIG-welded aluminum frame, rear derailleur and de rigueur straight fork.